The carnage Prairie Village police encountered when they entered a home on Sept. 20 belied the quiet, tree-lined setting.
Inside the house in the 6000 block of West 78th Terrace, officers found the bodies of Barbara L. Glenn and her husband, Richard C. Glenn, both dead from gunshot wounds.
Investigators determined that Richard Glenn, 48, killed his 53-year-old wife and then took his own life.
The murder-suicide was the third time in less than a month that a man in the Kansas City area fatally shot his wife or intimate partner and then killed himself.
While not all murder-suicides involve intimate partners or family members, the vast majority do, according data from the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
And when an intimate family member is killed, about a third of the time it’s a murder-suicide. About 90 percent of the perpetrators are men, and a similar percentage involve firearms. In many cases, they occur around the time of an estrangement.
That matches the recent surge in the Kansas City area.
On Aug. 28, Cheri Bland was fatally shot inside the 7th Heaven store at 76th Street and Troost Avenue. Bland, 28, worked at the store and was killed by 26-year-old Desmond Bell, who then killed himself.
They had a 10-month-old child together.
On Sept. 6, Jennifer Combs, 45, a juvenile detention officer in Wyandotte County, was fatally shot inside her Kansas City, Kan., home.
Her husband, Irvin Dale Combs, 60, shot her and then killed himself, police said. Her 17-year-old daughter found their bodies. They also had a 7-year-old son.
Barbara and Richard Glenn had two adult daughters. When reached for comment, the young women said they were grieving and declined to comment except for one written statement from one of their daughters:
“All I will say they were loving, caring people and parents to everyone they knew. They loved each other so so much. Things just had gotten tough for them lately.”
In a report using 2014 statistics, the Violence Policy Center said that 1,000 to 1,500 deaths in the United States each year are murder-suicides.
“The effects of murder-suicide go far beyond the shooter: family, friends, co-workers and absolute strangers are among those who are killed as a result of these acts of desperation. Moreover, murder-suicide often leaves children parentless,” according to the report.
Nationally, murder-suicides make up 30 percent of all intimate partner killings, said psychologist David Adams, co-founder of Emerge, an abuser education program and national training center on domestic violence.
“I found that they fit mostly within the category of possessively jealous killers, but with the additional elements of depression and substance abuse,” Adams said. “They tend to be older, on average, than those who only kill their partners, are more likely married, more often use a gun.”
Adams said that the killings are often triggered by an estrangement or pending estrangement.
Of the three recent murder-suicide cases, only Richard Glenn of Prairie Village had previously faced criminal charges of domestic violence, according to a review of area court records.
The lack of prior reported incidents is not surprising, say advocates who work with domestic violence victims.
“Even with little to no criminal history, I would almost guarantee that there has been an extensive pattern of abuse and control by the killer against the victim,” said Annie Struby with the Rose Brooks Center in Kansas City. “Victims are often threatened with repercussions if they contact the police, and are frequently physically prevented from calling the police.”
Although Bell in Kansas City and Combs in Kansas City, Kan., had no prior criminal prosecutions, both had been subjects of civil protection from abuse orders.
An order was filed against Combs in 2004 by another woman, not Jennifer Combs, according to Wyandotte County District Court records.
Bland in Kansas City filed a civil protection order against Bell on Aug. 26 — two days before she was killed.
Her family subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the store where she was shot to death. Bland was an employee and Bell’s mother was a manager, according to the suit.
The suit alleges that Bell’s mother was aware of her son’s history of physical and emotional and mental abuse against Bland.
On Aug. 27, Bell sent Bland a message on Facebook that included a picture of them together with “R.I.P.” written on the picture.
He was allegedly distraught over the protection order and went to the store Aug. 28 to confront Bland.
Richard Glenn was twice previously prosecuted for acts of domestic violence in Johnson County, court records show.
In May 2006, he was charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a handgun and two counts of battery. Barbara Glenn was listed as the victim in two of the charges. The other victim was identified by initials.
An amended complaint was later filed, adding another aggravated assault charge involving a third unnamed victim.
In October 2006, he pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated assault, domestic battery and battery, according to the court records.
He was placed on probation for two years.
In November 2011, Glenn was charged with domestic battery against Barbara Glenn.
As a condition of his bond, Glenn was ordered to have no contact with his wife.
But several days later, his lawyer filed a motion saying that Glenn and his wife “have a good relationship,” and both wanted the order lifted.
The motion stated that he was not a risk to his wife or children.
The case was scheduled for trial before a judge, but Barbara Glenn failed to appear, according to court records.
Prosecutors filed a motion seeking to have her held in contempt of court if she did not appear at the next court date.
Ultimately, Richard Glenn pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge and was placed on probation for one year.
Struby, from Rose Brooks, said it’s common for victims to not participate in a criminal prosecution of their abuser — either by choice or coercion.
“Safety is a huge factor,” she said. “Often the abusers won’t spend much time in jail, and will be back out, and very angry, within a short period of time.”
There are many factors that come into play when a victim has to decide to go forward with prosecution, Struby said.
“If the victim and abuser have been in a long-term relationship, the abuser will likely know where the victim’s friends and family live, limiting the victim’s safe options for places to stay,” she said.
Abusers may also control family finances or they may have children in common — further complicating the decision for victims.
How to get help
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
A number of agencies throughout the Kansas City area provide services and shelter for domestic violence victims.
Those seeking help can call the Kansas City Metro Domestic Violence Hotline at 816-HOTLINE (816-468-5463).